Thursday, December 31, 2009

Waconia Christmas Lights - Big Publicity

My neighbor's house (two doors down) was featured on one of the local Minneapolis news station reports last night. The neighbor has done this kind of light show for 4 years. He puts out a massive amount of lights, synchronizes their flashing to music (he must use some kind of software to accomplish this), broadcasts the music on a low-level FM frequency, and welcomes all to the show.
Some shows are better than others, and I still believe year one to be his best. This year I'd grade him an Obama-like "good solid B+."

They have a website in support of this effort as well.

It draws a ton of traffic into the neighborhood. It hasn't really impacted us that much (although I keep closer tabs on the dog when she's out), but my neighbor across the street (aka "The Grinch") absolutely HATES it, although he has reason. The proximity of his driveway makes a great place to view the show, and he often has uninvited guests parking there. While that's usually not a problem, it can tick a guy off when you're coming home and "want to get in your own damn garage."

The show will be over soon, but with all of the publicity, I'm sure we'll be looking at a lot more traffic next year.

Just don't park in The Grinch's driveway...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Obama (and Society): Put On a Damn Tie!

Sorry, folks, but my hot button just got pushed. I'm going to show my age. Big time.

What the hell happened to dressing formally in important situations? This picture was taken on Monday at Obama's press conference on the botched terrorist attack. While I know that he's on vacation in Hawaii, it would seem to me if you're going to go to the trouble of addressing the American people (and those that would do us harm), you might want to take that extra step and throw on a tie. I'm sure they have them, even in Hawaii.

Humans are visual animals - we take our cues from hundreds of unspoken movements, gestures, facial changes, and hidden signals. We have done this through our entire existence. So when the President comes out to reassure the public and warn our enemies but just can't be troubled to make that extra fashion step, it sends a signal. And not a good one.

The bottom line is that we don't dress up (or down) for ourselves. We do it for others, and we do it out of respect and to set the appropriate tone. It would seem to me you'd want to respect those that sent you to Washington and are looking to you for assurances of safety, but it appeared it just wasn't that important.

Obama is not alone in this - it is amazing what you see walking around at weddings and funerals now. My biggest pet peeve is the job interview. Sure, we have a casual culture. But guess what, Einstein, you're not part of our culture yet. Wearing a suit shows me the respect that you're taking this opportunity seriously.

Respect and sending the appropriate signal is what it is all about, not your comfort.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Dog Named Blitz - Chapter Three: "Puppy Troubles" Part 4

For background on this serial, please click here. You can also start at the previous section

As it pertained to a command, the whole concept of "walkies" came from English dog trainer Barbara Woodhouse. For those not familiar with her, Ms. Woodhouse was an elderly dog trainer who was featured on PBS a number of times. She had a number of catch-phrase commands, and among these was the sing-song "walk-ies!" delivered in a beautiful, proper British accent. It was completely plagiarized by me, including the British accent and the high voice, as the command to let Blitz know that we were hitting the road. It was just too darn unique not to pick up and make my own. I guess all those years of watching Monty Python episodes in my youth really did warp me as my mother had warned.

From the minute we brought her home, Blitz was a constant bundle of energy. Part of it was due to how she was wired - she was born and bread to be an athlete, and athletes need to move. Part of it also had to do with the hours my wife and I worked. Blitz sat at home alone and bored all day, so when we were around, she wanted to go.

Going for walks was the one way I could burn enough energy off her to keep peace in the house, and we'd do two every day - once the in morning before work and once after work when I got home. We had developed a nice route through our neighborhood, around a small lake, and then back through the neighborhood to home, and we hit it rain or shine.

Beyond the benefits of getting the dog exercise, there were added benefits to our route. First, Blitz quickly established a designated "poop spot" in a wooded area on the route. That meant that her messes were kept off my yard and were confined to a spot where pick up with the inside-out baggie would not be necessary. Even though that technique of cleaning up after the dog is sanitary, it still isn't much fun. Trust me.

While the "poop spot" was a nice habit that was developed, it did have its challenges. There were a number of mornings where the need to visit the spot was "pressing," and on a number of occasions our neighbors were treated to Blitz and I in a dead sprint down the road to the woods. Ordinarily I didn't mind the run as Blitz pulled me most of the way, but there were a number of snowy mornings before the plow had come through when Blitz's snow tires worked much better than mine, and I'd end up in a prone position in the middle of the road while she continued her poop-sprint to the designated spot, leash flailing behind her like the tail on some kind of yellow dog kite.

The second benefit to our route was that in the evening there were lots of kids and dogs to meet along our way. Blitz's socialization was extremely important to me. She needed to be very comfortable with people (especially kids), and needed to enjoy being around other dogs. Since her earliest days as a puppy she interacted with both, and as she grew she usually met both with a smile and with her tail wagging.

Blitz was always an early riser, as was I, so often our morning walk came in the 4:00 am hour. Throughout my life, between my paper route, walking the dog, and duck hunting, I've seen some really incredible and really weird stuff out and about at 4am, and sharing some of those with Blitz made them more special. Examples include encountering all sorts of critters, witnessing fantastic meteor showers, meeting some really strange people, and enjoying some fabulous northern lights shows.

Perhaps the most poinent thing we witenessed on our early moringing walks came the morning of September 12, 2001. I didn't sleep very well that night, and judging by the amount of lights that were on in houses that Blitz and I passed on our early 3:00 AM walk, neither did most of my neighbors.

Many times on our previous walks, I'd admire the amount of planes that would be arriving into the Minneapolis airport, regardless of the hour of our walk. I'd often wonder where those flights originated to be arriving so early, and who might be aboard those airliners. However, on this morning the sky was completely quiet, save for one lone F-16 from the Minnesota Air National Guard that was patrolling in a wide arc from Minneapolis to our east then out to our west about 50 miles and then back again.

I was struck by the speed of the plane and by the massive noise that it made. I thought of the pilot who must have known that additional attacks or other airborne risks to us that night were beyond improbable, but still he (or she) kept watch, circling and circling. In my life, I've logically known that our military was actively protecting us, but never before had I seen it manifest itself so obviously and overtly. I think all Americans felt like we lost something in those attacks on 9/11, and that pilot gave some of those things back to me. It was a comforting and calming image to see that pilot on patrol, and it is one that I will never forget.

For the most part, Blitz was good on walks. She got along with the people and dogs that we'd encounter, she usually kept a good pace. But she did, however, have three bad habits that made "walkies" a pretty interesting time.

Go to the next section

The Minnesota Vikings - Clueless, Gutless, Hurting, and Doomed

What we've witnessed the past three out of four weeks seems to reveal the Vikings' souls, right to the core. This team is unable to take out a weaker opponent when on the road and when on national television. As such, our hopes for a Super Bowl run are dashed.

There are reasons we can point to this team's struggles:

  • The loss of EJ Henderson can't be understated. More and more it is clear that he was their best player on the defensive side of the ball, and his loss is incredibly apparent on the field.
  • Winfield is a far cry from the shutdown corner he was before his injury, and the defensive coaches now need to swing safety coverage his way. We're seeing way too much of the back of his jersey.
  • Pat Williams' loss was felt last night, especially in the first half when the Bears controlled the ball so well.
  • The coaching staff continues its clueless jaunt. It took us over a half to determine that a spread formation can overcome what the Bears had game planned. That was a good quarter too late.
  • But the trump card to all of this is simple, gutless perfomances. Winning teams in the NFL step on the necks of their lesser opponents. With the 2009 version of the Minnesota Vikings, we let them kick our ass, and we do it on national television so all the world can see.

I think the best the team will deliver is a Wild Card appearance, which is a shame as they could really use a bye week to lick their wounds. They'll have home field for that game, and given what the Vikes did against Cincinnati a couple of weeks ago, they'll likely win on their home turf. But beyond that, it all gets doubtful. A game outdoors in the cold at Philly will be an absolute drubbing, and a game at the Big Easy will likely have Drew Brees revealing early and often that Antione Winfield is still hurting and is easy to burn (as if the last two games didn't already reflect that). Regardless, we've seen the future, and ladies and gentlemen, it is damned ugly.

Those Kool-aid hangovers are the worst...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Senator Baucus - Drinking on the Job?

Good evening, problem. What's the officer?

If there was ever a "last call" for a political career, I think we just witnessed it.

Storm of the Century™ : It's Over

We got an additional inch of snow yesterday, which required more driveway work. You can see by this picture the snow bank that was created by the snow plow, my snow blower, and my shoveling. It is about 4 1/2 feet tall, and created quite a work out yesterday as I manually shoveled what the plow had left behind. It's tough to get a shovel full of heavy snow up 5 feet.

Snow banks of this size abound. I remember as a kid loving these things as they made great areas for snow forts. Now, as a curmudgeonly old adult, I have significantly less use for them.

This morning we were met by a coating of frost and this weird yellow thing in the sky. It is big, bright, and warm. I vaguely remember seeing it about a week ago, and we're hoping it stays around a while.

Thankfully, The Storm of the Century™ has come to an end. It wasn't as bad as was advertised, but it wasn't wimpy either - a good, old fashioned Minnesota snow storm.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Storm of the Century™ : Nature Wins

In a major come-back, Mother Nature finally delivered that knock-out blow that was promised. It has been snowing for about 9 hours straight, and looks like we're still hours away from a let up. Our planned travels to see family have been pushed back for later this week.

Here's a peek of what it is like:

Al-Qaeda Cat Destroys Christmas Tree

My wife and I returned after early mass yesterday, walked into our house, and found the Christmas tree in this condition. The floor was littered with needles, ornaments, and water from the stand. Presents were soaked. Quite a mess.

How it happened is a mystery, but the cat was pretty sheepish and has been giving the tree a wide berth ever since. Given my conviction that our cat is evil incarnate, it seems only natural that she conduct some form a sabotage as we were formally celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior.

Anyone want a cat?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

I Wish it Was Christmas Today

Merry Christmas, everyone.


End of the 1st Period: Humanity 1, Storm of the Century™ 0

Looks like the storm petered out early this morning, so we're now looking at three different waves of precipitation. We got about 5" of the lovely stuff here; just SE of us about 10 miles it sounds like they got 9" so we're lucky.

With the break in the action the neighborhood got the snowblowers rolling right away. The break is perfect as the temperature is high (mid 20's) and there is very little wind. Snowblowing in wind is like drinking non-alcoholic beer - Oh, it can be done, you're just not going to have any fun doing it.

We're poised for the winds to come up and the snow to start again later this afternoon, so it is not over. Regardless, the pre-game hype doesn't appear to match the actual performance of the opponent.

Come on, Storm of the Century™, is that all you got?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Storm of the Century™ : Prep Complete

Took a quick 15 minutes at lunch and cleaned off the driveway down to the tar. If we get hit, it will make the snow blower easier to use. If we don't, I have a nice, clean driveway for the UPS man to walk up to bring me Christmas loot.

Either way, bring it on.

Storm of the Century™ On Its Way

Here's the latest from the National Weather Service:



God have mercy on us...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ralphie's Red Rider BB Gun Creates School Scare

Yet another example of how our haste to move our society to completely dependent sissies means that we need to throw all common sense out of the window.

From today's StarTribune:

An Eagan principal who let a parent shoot balloons with a BB gun in the school gym called his decision "unwise" on Monday after questions about the incident led to a school district investigation.

The balloon-popping took place after a ceremony held the evening of Dec. 8 for students graduating from a drug-awareness program at Red Pine Elementary. The kids got certificates, cake and helium balloons -- some of which floated up to the ceiling. To get the balloons down, Principal Gary Anger let a parent volunteer bring a BB gun from home to pop them while a few people finished cleaning up the gym.

The BB gun troubled some adults in the school district, where students caught with weapons have been expelled. After Star Tribune reporters learned of the incident and started asking questions on Monday, officials in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan District said they were investigating it.

"It's obviously not something that we condone," said district spokesman Tony Taschner.

You can read the entire article here.

Beyond the abject danger that this parent created by his wanton and bloodthirsty act, he also denied some janitor hours and hours of much needed overtime and the fun of using the district's state-of-the-art cherry picker.

Gun toting fascist...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Minnesota Pheasant Season - Late Season Report

Pheasant hunting has been pretty decent these past couple of weeks. With snow in the area the birds have congregated in the cattails, making them easier to find, and making them more predisposed to hold as opposed to running. A slow, steady pace, someone to block, and a good dog mean flushes in range.

For the season we're at 22 roosters - a good number considering that we still have two weekends left. That number also excludes any birds taken by my partner when I wasn't there, so I'm guessing that the actual harvest for our land to be close to 30. With a down year with regard to hatch, this is a really good indication of the value of habitat.

And it is amazing how the habitat is being used. Signs of deer, turkeys, rabbits, field mice, and other critters abound.

The season went by way too fast. Hard to believe that it is nearly over, but we look forward to planting season in four months.

Hope it gets here quick.

Trigeminal Neuralgia - That Was Quick

A stressful Sunday and stabs in the head. We're back up to 300 mg.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Trigeminal Neuralgia - Wishin' for Remission

It has been about three weeks since a bad episode, and even the minor ones have been extremely infrequent. This is despite a very stressful period (although I have been working on getting my sleep).

As such, I'm hopefully that I might be in a remission period, which is common in the early stages of this malady. I've started to back off on my Carbamazepine, and am now back to my original dose of 200mg. If things continue to go well for a week or two, I'll back off again and see what happens.

Fingers crossed...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Al Franken is an Embarrassment - Part 4?

Just the latest from our freshman Senator. We are so proud that he represents us so effectively.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Barry's Ballyhoo: "B+!"

Even Oprah, the biggest sycophant this guy has, seems amazed in his reply:

In my life, I have strong remembrances of eight Presidents. Of the eight, I would expect seven of them to answer Oprah’s question with something along the lines of “We’ll Oprah, that’s not for me to answer. The American people (or history) will ultimately be the judge.” Only one of them would have the "self-esteem" to give himself an “A-“ if he can get healthcare done.


The hubris of this man continues to amaze me. His citizens suffer: one in ten cannot find jobs, more like one in six don’t have them and in some instances have stopped looking altogether. And this egotistical narcissist has the testicles smile gleefully and grade himself a “B+” to a question that made him look woefully un-Presidential.

In the mean time, his approval as registered by Rasmussen’s poll of likely voters is crashing faster than a Tiger alibi for being out all night.

There is a shocking lack of reality going on with President that downright scary.

Global Warming? Now Here's Some Inconvenient Truth

Check this out - pretty incredible:

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Great Story for Holiday Season

Just about the time when you lose your faith in your fellow man, a story like this comes along and restores it.

Tiger Woods: The Redemption Story Begins

In a virtuoso PR move, Tiger is going underground. This is the only path he can take in which he can still ultimately have it all, and in thinking about it appears to be the obvious choice.

Here's the future how I see it:

  • It is "leaked" that Tiger is a sexual addict and is receiving professional help for his addiction.

  • His marriage may or may not work. From a PR standpoint, it doesn't matter. The fact that Tiger has shown remorse and is working on his situation earns him a pass from the public.

  • Tiger stays away from golf about a half year longer than what the public would like in order to build anticipation up into a raging froth.

  • He finally comes back, hat in his hands and contrite, and the public (and sponsors) go completely wild.

  • To make the scenario perfect, he comes back for a major, wins, and after sinking the last putt he crumples on the 18th green in tearful heap.

  • He continues as he did before - all is forgiven.

There are two stories the public loves - we like to see the mighty fall, and we love redemption stories. Kobe Bryant, Bill Clinton, Robert Downey, Rob Lowe - all have captured the hearts of Americans despite their transgressions, and this is just a short list.

The only thing that stands in the way of this working is Tiger himself. He has one chance, and one chance only, hence his days of being a male slut are over. Given how he's conducted his life thus far, that's going to he a huge challenge. It is a lifestyle to which he's been accustomed, the stakes associated with a fall are greater, and every tramp seeking her 15 minutes will be gunning to be the one to take him off the path. Like Odysseus sailing past the Sirens, his temptations will be incredible.

He's shown in the past he's probably the most mentally tough athlete that sports has seen. He'll now need to prove it off the golf course.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Notre Dame Lands Coach Kelly

As an Irish fan, I'm not surprised in the naming of Brian Kelly to the post. He seemed the logical and safest pick.

I don't envy this job – he'll need to win over a following that grades you only on the performance of your last game, and he'll inherit a team that is undisciplined and fracturing.

Personally, he'll have my support as long as the program does three things:

  • Discipline – I am so tired of Irish mistakes due to lack of discipline. Score a TD? Then act like you've been there before and make an excessive celebration penalty a thing of the past. Take a stupid late hit out of bounds? Then expect to get your facemask grabbed and have a coach screaming in your face on national TV when you come to the bench.
  • Passion – Play with some emotion and pride. Select team captains based on their ability to inspire the troops and not on how they look on TV or based on their Heisman potential.
  • Intelligence – This goes to discipline, but applies to the coaches as well. Manage the clock effectively. Call time outs appropriately. Listen to the snap count, please.

If the Irish can do these things, they'll be a pleasure to watch every Saturday, win or lose.

Coach Kelly, welcome. Get busy and wake up those echoes.

Tiger, Brands, and Integrity

The next point on our personal awareness continuum is around integrity. Integrity has a simple definition – being consistent in thought, deeds and actions, and having that consistency align with the values that we have developed throughout our lives.

Given the whole Tiger Woods situation, I’ve been thinking a lot about this component lately. I don’t think Tiger is necessarily out of integrity – I think his alleged actions support and are aligned with his true values. Think about it, even if 10% of what is playing out is true, you can’t behave in those myriad alleged behaviors without it being ingrained in your value system that those activities are OK. But I do think some (in not all) of the brands he’s sponsored are way out of integrity, and that’s the exact reason why you’ve not seen a Tiger ad since this thing broke. What that will ultimately mean will play out in the days, and perhaps years, to come.

We all fall, and we make choices that fail to live up to the values that we set for ourselves. But when we do live up to our expectations, and especially when we do so in trying situations, the reward is dignity, clarity, peace, and the self-respect that comes from being true to who we really are.

As I get older, I see this and appreciate this more deeply.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

"So, They Have the Internet on Computers Now..."

How big has the web become? Check out this astonishing graphic. You can click on it for additional detail.
The amount of information being exchanged is staggering, and for those of us that work in the industry, create good opportunities.

Toys for Tots - Semper Fi

Great Christmas commercial. Great cause.

Merrry Christmas.

Minnesota Weather Haiku

A litttle something in celebration of the great state we call home.

Rules of haiku are here

High today of 5
Three more months of cold and pain
Why do we live here?

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Truck is Dead, Long Live the Truck

I’ve been working on a number of big projects at work of late, and have been racking up some big hours. Last Thursday I left the office at 8:45 for a 60 mile commute back to home. I was greeted to a Minnesota winter; a cold front had hit and brought cold temps and light snow to the region.
I climbed into my cold 2003 Mercury Mountaineer, and was greeted with an outdoor temperature reading of 14. I pulled out of the office and pointed the rig north for my daily hour and ten minute drive home.

My commute crosses the Minnesota River, and moves up and down large bluffs a couple of times. As such, my transmission gets a work out. Unfortunately, the cold and hills conspired to kill the transmission, and while I could limp my vehicle home, the transmission was toast. Given the vehicle has 195,000 miles on it, replacing it made no sense. Thus, we headed to the dealer the following day.

Here’s the new rig.

It is not tricked out nearly as nice as my old ride, but there’s a recession on and upgrading any more than this seemed a luxury far too great. It does have integrated Microsoft Sync technology, which is really impressive. Sync makes calling, reading (actually, hearing) text messages, playing my iPod, and other such communications completely hands free. The voice activated technology associated with it is remarkable in its ability to understand my spoken words.

The old rig will be donated to the Disabled American Veterans, and will hopefully serve them well. It served me well for 7 years, two career changes, countless trips to northern Minnesota, and nearly 200,000 miles.
Great truck, and I’ll miss it.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christmas Tree Lotto

Seeking a Christmas tree, my wife and I went up to our local grocer where we had very good luck with a tree last year – it was incredibly fresh, and lasted well through the holiday.

This year the selection of our favored Frasier Firs was limited to a new batch of trees that were still frozen in their transported state. Despite bending, shaking, and plying, it was impossible to get an indication of how the trees were going to look once defrosted.

Given our luck of last year, we picked out one that seemed to have the appropriate configuration, and set it up. We’ll keep you posted on how “Christmas Tree Lotto” turns out.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Chris Matthews Calls West Point "The Enemy Camp"

I guess we can be happy that he didn't call them "babykillers."

Even though he probably thought it.

Amazing how some on the Left continue to despise the military so much.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

First Class in Delta's 767

In travelling this past Thanksgiving vacation, I used some miles to upgrade our travel to first class. While the trip to Charleston is not a long one, the benefits of travelling first class during a busy travel weekend (easy boarding, lots of room, express security, cocktails, etc.) just make it a good use of those dusty miles.

As part of the leg back from ATL to MSP, we were aboard Delta’s 767. This is the first time I’ve been in first class in this big bird, and the amenities were awesome.

First, this plane is outfitted for oceanic crossings, and that means big reclines. The keypad for the chair provides some insight of all the aspects of comfort that are under your control.

All that recline means there needs to be space to accommodate, and while my picture came out poorly, this cabin configuration took legroom to a whole new arena.

Perhaps the best part was the personal video system. I personally enjoyed two partial movies and real-time flight tracking (altitude, location, speed, tailwind, ETA, etc.).

Not sure why this big bird was doing domestic duty – probably had something to do with getting it up to MSP for another flight – but for two very tired post-Thanksgiving travelers, it was a fabulously comfortable ride.